Megamansions should feel like homes, not museums
Museums are fantastic cultural institutions that can provide perspective, education, or inspiration, but you wouldn’t want to live there.
Expansion took off during the pandemic, but mega-houses, homes that span tens of thousands of square feet, may feel more institutional than family-friendly if not well designed. To make such a home livable, homeowners need to focus on a cohesive design style, layers of warm materials, and other tricks to unify that entire square footage. Plus, thoughtful design only has a lifestyle value left when it comes to a future resale.
âWarm, thoughtful interior design will definitely pay off for future mega-mans sales in Los Angeles’ most prestigious neighborhoods,â said David Parnes, director of luxury real estate brokerage The Agency. âWe definitely noticed a shift from the white boxes of new developments to warmer modern compounds. “
First on the list of mistakes, said Gavin Brodin of Brodin Design Build of Beverly Hills: âDon’t create pieces that aren’t used. The giant coins that are never used, for me, are the worst.
Brodin Design Build projects range from 20,000 to 40,000 square feet, although they have worked on larger homes, including the 56,000 square foot Spelling Manor in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Creativity and originality must be balanced with the consistency of the megamanoirs.
âWhen you get into these big houses – 40,000 to 50,000 square feet – you can’t design in crazy details. These places are so huge that you must have consistency of color and theme throughout the house. You can’t jump from one daring room to another with a completely different vibe, âsaid Mr. Brodin. The larger the house, the greater the design flow becomes.
Designing with raw natural materials and taking inspiration from nature can also combat the sterile institutional feel of the great outdoors, said Felipe Escudero of Ecuador-based Studio Felipe Escudero.
âGeometry is certainly a powerful tool for celebrating the complex shapes found in nature,â Mr. Escudero said. âWhat if instead of separating the user from nature, the construction could have the effect of awakening an appreciation of nature? “
Start with space planning
Before delving into the details of finishes, lighting design and furniture, the first step to starting a mega-manor design project is planning the space. Rooms in mega-mansions should not be too large. For example, a giant formal living room is unlikely to feel comfortable without proper space planning, even when filled with guests.
Lifestyle questions need to be answered early on. What is the size of the owner’s library, fleet, or other collections? âThe most important thing is that you have to establish a flow,â Mr. Brodin said. âYou have to make the house a house, not a museum. Each space must have an intention, therefore each space must be designed individually.
If the owners employ staff, do the staff live on site? How will they get into the house? How will they load the supplies around the house? Will staff be using a second kitchen? Will they walk around the house and use the main stairs?
âBuilding the flow of the house is extremely important,â Mr. Brodin said.
Don’t design two rooms the same
When a home exceeds 25,000 square feet, it is natural to have additional rooms. Yet resist the cookie-cutter approach and the duplication of pieces.
âNormally we will have an entertaining floor, so you will have about 15,000 square feet on the lower level for a cinema, bowling alley, nightclub or bar, gymnasium and all entertainment and sports stuff,â says Mr. Brodin.
A variety of experiences within a large home can make it comfortable and unified, Mr. Escudero said.
Spelling Manor presents an excellent case study. “The main floor was approximately 3,500 square feet, just huge,” said Brodin. The house had numerous bedrooms with guest spaces, bathrooms and double closets.
The master suite alone spanned 9,500 square feet. Mr. Brodin designed an entrance hall, a kitchenette, a living room, a sleeping area, an office for working, a large bathroom and two huge wardrobes. Even in the closets, different areas have been separated for wrapping, lingerie, shoes and clothing.
Mr Brodin said some of the parts were unusually oversized and could not be altered for structural reasons. âFor example, the formal living room was split into two sides, so you had to use one side or the other, unfortunately,â he said.
The house had an additional living room, so Mr. Brodin transformed it into an indoor-outdoor loggia. âWe didn’t want to repeat a lounge, so we removed the doors to the side to make it part of the pool.â
Only a few exceptions to the rule of duplication exist, such as the construction of additional dens and laundry rooms.
Spelling Manor is large enough that Mr. Brodin said it made sense to create an upstairs TV room, separate from the movie theater on the entertainment level. He said owners used the upstairs room more often than the downstairs cinema to relax.
âIn all of our homes we have a laundry room on the second floor. The laundry room should be upstairs where your sheets, bedrooms and clothes are already located, âsaid Mr. Brodin. In Spelling Manor, he designed a smaller downstairs utility room for pool towels and other odds and ends.
Work with, not against, unusual architectural details
New construction projects can have more flexible parameters. But renovating large homes can have complications. Structurally, it may not be possible to move walls or significantly change a layout.
âWe have to be creative in hiding unusual details in the design, keeping them useful and not after the fact,â Mr. Brodin said.
The high ceilings can sometimes be too good and make the house feel cold. Mr Brodin said he had many clients who initially liked very high ceilings and then found it difficult to decorate comfortably.
âYou must have such oversized artwork it’s amazing. You can’t put regular or small works of art on the wall, âMr. Brodin said. Adding wood panels to the walls and ceiling, or dropping the ceiling, can help warm a space. âWe lowered a lot of ceilings to achieve a floating ceiling effect with a halo of light around it. “
Plus, never underestimate the power of a good lighting design to warm up a space, regardless of its size. Instead of arranging the lights symmetrically or directing the light towards the ceiling, work with a light designer for a personalized and intentional feel. âWe like to work with light designers. They do a great job, especially in making the big houses warm, âsaid Mr. Brodin.
Invoke curiosity with materials and layers
Adding layers can create visual interest. âWe like to include a mix of stone, leather, metal and ornate trims,â said Mr. Brodin.
Layering materials can have major visual benefits, especially for rooms specific to an individual’s passions. Mr. Brodin has already designed a unique 2,000 square foot closet for a client with an affinity for fashion, including an extensive collection of cufflinks, ties and watches.
“It was like stepping into one of the rodeos [Drive] men’s fashion stores [in Beverly Hills], said Brodin. âIt was the most James Bond closet you could imagine. There was a secret door that led to a panic room, which then led to a back staircase.
Mr Brodin described atypical built-in storage and dressers, as well as unexpected details such as champagne coolers hidden in ottomans, TVs hidden behind mirrors and speakers hidden in the ceiling. The only problem with a closet like this is that its owner may not want to leave.
The same concept applies to exteriors. âInstead of the white stucco and cold stone that we’ve seen in many megacities in the past, warmer tones and thoughtful design cues are now enhancing modern exteriors,â Mr. Parnes said. âInstead of minimalist styles, fuller landscaping, bronzes, warm colors and organic materials are in vogue and are helping halfway houses from cold homes.â
Exhibiting raw materials, even concrete and steel, can add interest to a very large home, Mr. Escudero said. âRaw materials such as exposed concrete and steel add extra comfort to the built environment and are reminiscent of nature even in large-scale projects,â he said.
“Like good storytelling, in order to make a megamander comfortable and unified, the key is to create a variety of experiences that can change over time, thanks to its materiality, volume, geometry and light.”